A fast-paced sci-fi thriller for fans of Ready Player One.
Rabbits is a highly dangerous, secret game that involves the fabric of reality itself. There have been 10 iterations of ‘the game’ so far, but now something is wrong. An obsessive fan of the game, known only as K, is approached by reclusive billionaire Alan Scarpio, alleged winner of a previous iteration of Rabbits. Scarpio warns K that something has gone wrong with the game, and K needs to fix it before the 11th game starts, or the entire universe could be at stake. A few days later, Scarpio is missing, the 11th game begins, and K is running out of time.
If your first question is, ‘What is the game?’ then I’m not sure I can help you. The entire concept of the game of Rabbits is confusing—though that is likely intentional. Players find the game by noticing uncanny coincidences in everyday life, and even the players seem unsure at times whether they are actually playing the game or not. The concept delves deeply into the Mandela Effect and the related theory of the multiverse, toying with alternate universes and different versions of oneself.
Despite this lack of clarity, the book was surprisingly easy to read. K is an interesting and likeable character, in some ways similar to Wade in Ready Player One, though the obsession with pop culture is thankfully toned down in K’s narration. K struggles with mental illness and is clearly unstable at times, making him the perfect unreliable narrator. He makes believable choices and is well fleshed out overall.
Also making the book easier to follow is the suspense-thriller narrative underlying the sci-fi elements. At the end of the day, K, with his friend/love interest Chloe, has a mystery to solve, which they aim to do by finding clues, speaking to people connected to the game, and finding more clues. Some of this gets a little repetitive, but the fast-paced flow of the narrative makes it easy to continue powering through the story, with more than enough risk to keep it exciting. An interesting antagonist and clear reasons for the game malfunctioning also add some much-needed solid information leading towards the climax of the story.
Terry Miles’ prose is clean and uncluttered. Told in first person from K’s point of view, it tells what he sees and feels and no more. Descriptions are minimal and functional, focusing on the forward motion of the narrative. It works well; it keeps K’s voice coming through loud and clear at all times, as well as keeping up the tension throughout.
The mystery of what the game really is would be fine—after all, the game is secret, and even the players themselves don’t have the answers. However, what makes this frustrating is that the gameplay itself is never really explained. How does one win? How do you know if you are making progress in the game? The lack of clarity around these elements makes the climax seem rushed and lacking details. It is not clear how the climactic events come about or why K makes some of the choices that he does towards the end.
Despite this, Rabbits was a highly enjoyable read that should appeal to fans of Ready Player One, The Matrix, and other sci-fi thrillers.
Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff
Distributed by: Pan Macmillan
Released: 8 June 2021